Thursday, December 24, 2009

Interview with Tim Proctor

How did you get involved in sketch cards?
I have been doing personal sketch cards for quite a while and also building up a sketch card portfolio to take with me to conventions for portfolio reviews. I recently attended San Diego Comicon and showed my work to various artists and art directors. One thing led to another and shortly after I landed my first official set which was Topps Clone Wars Season 1 Widevision.

Do you have an educational background in art?
Yes I graduated from the Memphis College of Art and earned my BFA degree in Illustration.

How do you feel about sketch cards now that you have your first card set behind you?
Actually once I finished my first set, I hated to see it end. I was already eagerly awaiting another set and shortly after was invited to work on Star Wars Galaxy 5.

Is there anything you'll do differently for your next set?
Yes, on the first set I did 106 full color cards. On the next set I’m thinking of doing half of my cards color and the other half black and white. Without saying how many I will be doing, I can tell you it is more than the last set. I’m still experimenting with my style and by doing this; it gives me an opportunity to try new things.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
I’m pretty comfortable with the small surface. At times it can prove to be a challenge but I’m always up for that.

How do you feel about the entire process?
I have only worked for one company so far and the experience has been very good. I’m sure most would like longer deadlines but for me, I tend to work better under pressure. Meeting deadlines with quality work is top priority for me. If it means working late into the night to complete a project on time then that’s what I do. I take my work very seriously.

Do you prefer to work with a specific media?
I’m always trying new things but I find that I keep going back to marker, ink, and colored pencil. I still have a few things that I would like to try such as watercolor. Experimenting with different media is important when you are defining your individual style.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
Yes. I have been very active on several message boards and have been commissioned by quite a few members. A lot of my clients become repeat clients.
One thing I strive for is to make sure that the collector is 100% satisfied. That’s very important to me. I’m open to suggestions and feedback.

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
Well I understand the desire that collectors have to obtain full color sketch cards. Honestly artists may not have the time to do all of their cards in full color. I think it’s easy to forget how much time full color cards can take. With a mix of sketches and full color cards out there, it's a nice bonus to get a full color card. However, I have seen a LOT of sketches that I would prefer over a full color card. I'm somewhat of a collector myself. Everyone likes something different. It is a gamble when you buy a box. If you do not want to take the risk, and you only want a full color card, it may be best to head over to eBay and bid on a card you wish to have. However, you may just pull a top notch sketch that could just become your new favorite card. For artists just starting out, sketch cards are in my opinion a great opportunity to work on an official set and the exposure may prove to be very beneficial.

Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
I can honestly say that I have not. Most collectors and fans of my work have been great to deal with. I keep the communication open and have enjoyed the experiences. On a side note, if you see me in artist alley and want a critique, always feel free to stop by. I will always give feedback and offer advice to artist looking to get into the industry.

Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work?
Well it's early in the game but I can say that the exposure I have received from the first set has generated more interest in my work and that’s always a good thing. This is another reason why sketch cards are good. It gets your artwork in front of more people. Whether it be a sketch card collector or a young fan pulling your card from a random pack purchased at a retail store. There is something in it for everyone.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I was proud of most of my cards from the Clone Wars Widevision set. My return cards I am most proud of though. I found that I had a lot of fun drawing Yoda in particular. I would say that my top two favorites are Yoda cards. I have quite a few favorite personal sketch cards as well though. Some cards may be a favorite because it proved to be a challenge and I pulled it off, while others may be favorites because either I like the character or thought the execution was nice.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
With each set, I plan to keep at least one card. When I get the return cards back and select the card I want to keep, I will frame it. The framed piece will include the return card along with part of the packaging from the box and a name plate. Picture if you will a framed album and record by a recording artist. It's something I want to do to commemorate each set. The rest of the return cards will be sold.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
Absolutely! I enjoy doing the cards and as long as there is the invite to work on a new set, consider me in. You never know what the future holds but I will always try and make time to do sketch cards.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
The best advice I can give is to never give up. Spend some time building a nice portfolio of solid work. Research the industry, the artists, everything. Get your work out there. Attend conventions, network, and show your work to as many artists and art directors as possible. If I have learned one thing it's that persistence pays off. Have confidence and take pride in your work. Just tell yourself that it's only a matter of time and don't give up. When you get the job, all that hard work pays off and the feeling is far greater than you will probably expect.

Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
Right now I’m getting ready to work on Star Wars Galaxy 5 but hope more sets are waiting just around the corner.

What are you currently working on (does not have to be card related)?
Right now I'm working a few more sketch cards for 2009. I also have about four commissioned paintings lined up. In between those, I plan to work on a few promotional pieces for the upcoming Megacon convention in Orlando in March.

Where can people see more of your work?
They can view more of my work at I plan to give the site a makeover in the near future and add updates and possibly a new look. That’s another thing I need to add to my "to do" list. The site has not been updated in a while due to time limitations. But definitely stay tuned for updates.

Thank you for your time and insights, Tim!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Interview with Paul Maiellaro

How did the Chicagoland Entertainment Collectors Expo get started?
Actually, the show emerged out of the love of comic books & interacting with people.

What type of convention is the Expo?
The Expo is a place where one can go to enjoy themselves, relax, make new friends and get reacquainted with old ones. We try to create a less stressful environment for everyone. Today's world is filled with way too much stress. Although the show was born into a nonsport and entertainment trading card show, it has morphed into an entertainment show, still predominantly nonsport cards, but with a flair of comic books, movie items, toys, TV & Movie celebrities, artists, publishers and from time to time a manufacturer or two.

Does it get easier organizing the convention every year or are you faced with new challenges?
In some respects, yes, but we try to keep things fresh for people and we try to change the programming a slight bit each year to do so. Each year has a new challenge.

I understand you usually have 2 a year. Are there any plans to add more or scale it down to one convention per year?
The amount of shows vary from year to year. Being the impulsive person that I am, I tend to add shows, try different areas, and again, to keep things alive and interesting. I have added a Holiday Expo this coming Sunday, Dec 13th at the Carol Stream,IL. Holiday Inn. I hope to see some of your fans there. Please stop by admissions and say hello!

Do you have a lot of volunteers helping you?
We have about a dozen or so really great people that we can count on. High praise to each of them. Thank you everyone for all of the terrific help you have been throughout the years.

Is there anything new planned for this year's 10th Anniversary Chicagoland Entertainment Collectors Expo?
Wow! Is this a loaded question! Yes! There will be a great addition to the programming and special offerings the Expo will have this next year. Among the changes include an extra day of show time at NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE for those of you who prepurchase an advance ticket. The dates for 2010 are Sept 9-10-11-12. Just a reminder, anyone coming to the Dec 13th Expo, will have an opportunity to purchase the 10th Anniversary admission ticket at a VERY SPECIAL COST! So, come on out and get yours today!
Also, there are a great number of guests and artists planned for this special event. And most of all, we will be unveiling the Treasure Chest of Art charity project we are currently offering for sale. I am especially proud of this charity project, to help benefit the Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation. Please check out my website at for complete details. This is a great project, I hope that you will take the opportunity to purchase this once in a lifetime piece.

How far in advance are you preparing for a show?
Typically one year in advance of the Expo, however, this being the 10th Anniversary and all, it will be 1 1/2 to almost 2 full years in the making.

Are there a lot of steps involved to schedule celebrities to attend the show?
Tons and each year varies depending on how much programming there is to do.

I understand you have a sketch card artist do the cover art for the program book. How do you choose which artist you would like to feature?
Well, there are different ways of selection. Mostly depends on the timing. In 2010, we will have a huge surprise for all the visitors. Look for four variant covers- a different issue given out each day of the convention!

Are the shows financially successful for the Expo?
The Expo is truly a labor of love and dedication to the people and the hobby, as well as a great satisfaction of helping people in need. To date, the CECE raised over $ 12,000.00 for the Treasure Chest Foundation and we are shooting for a record breaker in 2010! I feel very confident that we can accomplish our goals with all of your help.

You currently host the shows inside a hotel. Do you have plans to move it to a larger venue?
No, not at this time.

Where can people get more information about the Chicagoland Entertainment Collectors Expo?
The main contact is or email
The web address for the Treasure Chest is
Thank you Jessica for the opportunity! Thank all of your followers for supporting or future support of the CECE and the Treasure Chest Foundation.

Thank you for your time, Paul!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Interview with collector Kris Kersey

How did you first get into sketch card collecting?
When I was a kid I collected baseball cards as well as a few sets of non-sports cards. As I grew up, and had different things that I HAD to spend money on, being a collector went by the wayside. I can't say that I ever stopped looking at what was on the shelves/pegs at Wal-Mart, but I never saw anything that really peaked my interest to get back involved.
It wasn't until Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out that I found something that made me jump back in. I picked up a pack at Wal-Mart and saw autographs (which were always cool) and this new (to me at least) 1/1 thing called sketch cards. That really got me thinking. What a cool idea! A true 1/1 thing that not only peaked my collecting interest but also my love of original art.
So after getting on-line, finding Scoundrel, and meeting all of the great people in that community, which includes artists and collectors, I was hooked. This was not only a hobby that played on my fandom of Indiana Jones, and eventually Star Wars, but it also came with the bonus of a great on-line community which really feeds the passion.

Is there a specific genre/property/character you collect and why?
As mentioned, Indiana Jones and Star Wars are the vast majority of my collection. Those are just two amazing franchises that have so much imagination and excitement. It brings back childhood memories and so there's always a nostalgic feeling when you see an artist's take on a scene or character that means something to you.

Do you prefer pencil cards over color (or color over pencil)?
When I first started collecting, I wasn't sure how much I wanted to invest in this new hobby, so basically I grabbed whatever interested me that I could afford. I found this to be a bottomless pit of sorts with no direction and no real boundaries of what I would and would not buy. So in the interest of finding a direction, I decided that I would focus on color cards, spend a bit more money on each, but that this would give me bounds. This is in no way a snuff on gray-scale work, but simply something to limit myself. It works both in terms of what I consider buying and how much money I can realistically spend.

What do you look for in a card that you want to own?
It's simply a mix of styles and subject matters I like. I try to get a sampling of artwork from artists whose work is visually appealing to me. I also try not to repeat any of the images in my collection. This makes what I own not only diverse in style, but also extremely diverse in content.

If there is a specific artist - or artists - you like to collect, what is it about their cards you prefer?
My top two favorite artists to collect are Grant Gould and Irma Ahmed. Their styles just touch something that make me smile. While their styles are not all that similar, the uniqueness and feeling in their art just does it for me. I guess what kind of art that interests you is pretty personal.

Have you ever contacted a card company about a card set? If so, why?
I've only contacted one company because of a damaged sketches. It's always a heart-breaking thing to see but the company have always done right with what they return to me.

How large would you say your collection is?
Thanks to, it's an easy thing to figure out. I have around 200 cards today, give or take a few in transit in or out of my collection.

How do your family/friends feel about your collecting?
My wife thinks I'm nuts. She appreciates the art and the subject matter a ton, but it's not a cheap hobby. I think if the investment wasn't so large, she would enjoy it with me more but, I have to admit, it is a big deal.
My kids love it! They can't wait for the mail. My son (4) and my daughter (3) have an amazing ability now to name a huge number of Star Wars and Indiana Jones characters. It's a lot of fun to share this with them.
Beyond my wife and kids, family and friends are someone indifferent about it. They all know I'm a geek, so this is really no big deal.

Do you ever sell off portions of your collection? If so, why?
I like to call it pruning. To me it's a lot like taking care of a plant. While all the limbs were special at some point in time, sometimes they grow a little long or you ask yourself why you left it there so long.
My collection has been organic like that. It grows in directions that I guide it in, but sometime you realize that something doesn't really fit or you can't afford to let it keep growing like this.
I'm sorry for the long analogy, but I end up selling pieces off from time to time that don't really fit what I want to accomplish anymore with my collection or pieces that I like but I can't afford to hang onto. Sometimes I have to part with pieces I like to afford something I simply like more.

How do you feel about more sketch card sets coming out on a regular basis?
It depends on how you define "regular". For instance, when three Indiana Jones sets came out in less than a year, that's not "regular", it's frequent! No collector (or artist for that matter) can keep up with that and we all kinda got burned out. It was too much to buy and too much to even appreciate in such a short amount of time. Both the art and the collectability suffered greatly.
On the other hand, if you're talking about a yearly set, that can be a lot of fun. It gives you something to look forward to. Keep in mind that companies still need to keep the yearly Star Wars sets down to a minimum, for example. If I have one or two sets to collect a year, I can probably handle it. If that number were to go much higher per year, I'd have to swap around or pick some to leave out completely.

Would you say that affects collectability?
It does affect it. For example, if I casually collect someone's art or a subject matter, I will eventually feel I have that card or I have all I need of that character. So, if companies don't slow down a bit, I for one will get saturated and will buy less and less per set. This is due to too much of one property and limited funds to keep pouring into this.

Do you purchase several boxes or cases of cards at a time?
For the past couple of sets, I have bought 3 cases of cards each. This is just a chance for me to pull something that may have cost too much for me to buy on eBay. It's kind of like playing the lottery.

How do you feel about some collectors that buy several cases at a time?
I understand it. For some, it's a chance to pull something you couldn't afford. For others, it's a chance to make a little money on what you pull in order to afford more. Collectors need to start understanding though that neither of these propositions may actually happen.

Do you take artist popularity into consideration?
I can't say that I do. I only buy what I like. You have to understand though that an artist's popularity is due to the "likability" of their work. So while I like a lot of artists that many others like as well, that's due to the fact that many people agree that the art rocks!

What would you say is your favorite card you own and why?
That's a hard one. That card changes with my mood, what's going on in my life, and possibly with what film I have recently watched. I have included some of my favorites for you to look at with this interview.

How do you feel about an artist putting out several cards with the same image on them (profile, half face, a specific item, etc)?
To me, this completely disqualifies the 1/1 aspect of the card. While two cards of the same image are not identical, they are close enough to sour the experience of pulling it. I would rather an artist do a few "quick pencil sketches" that are unique to supplement their set than duplicate full-color cards. Many collectors would probably argue this, but that's my take.

What is your opinion on pencil sketches in a card set versus fully colored/painted cards?
Artists are in no way obligated to do anything more than they are contracted to do. Let's get that out of the way first. So I don't get "mad" at artists that do what they need to do to get the job done.
Now away from my practical business side, I choose not to collect or commission artists that don't at least try to put their best foot forward. I have very little respect for anyone that doesn't try to do their best with any job they get. At my job, I do my best work within the constrains of the environment. So, this means that if not given enough time or REQUIRED to do too many cards, I completely understand less than top-notch work. But when an artist takes on a job, knows what it pays, knows what the target audience would like, and chooses to do too much or at a very low quality, that's on the artist. I've been told that art isn't that simple or that it's just different, but so many jobs have levels of detail or levels of quality. All I expect is for people to do their best.

On that note, how do you feel about some artists who state that sketch cards are just that, 'sketch' cards?
What's in a name? Sketch cards were once just sketch cards. Now they've become much more than that thanks to artists choosing to take it to the next level. One thing that sketch cards have shown us is that, if some artists aren't willing to do the more complete work, their are plenty of "hungry" artists that want the exposure that are. So while those artists may chose to continue to "sketch" on their cards, others will chose to create works of art and they will be the stand-outs amongst collectors.

Are there any sketch card sets you would love to see come out that haven't yet?
I would love to see a generation 1 Transformers set. I grew up on those and to see them recaptured by some of my favorite artists would be a real treat.

Do you contact artists for personal commissions, any return cards they may have, etc?
All the time. Return cards are my favorite cards to collect for several reasons. 1. I'm purchasing the artist's very best work. 2. I'm supporting the artist directly. 3. I don't have to hassle with bidding for it on eBay!
I encourage people that can afford it to purchase commissions and returns. It's what keeps artists working on art and not having to take time away for those stinkin' day jobs.

How do you feel about artists charging more for return cards?
Return cards are the vast majority of an artist's payment for a set. So they can charge what they feel the market can sustain. Sometimes it is "just business".

Some companies put cards out that vary in size (Topps' Clone Wars Widevision, for example). Does that affect whether or not you will collect from that set?
The first of these that I collected were the "foldable" panoramic card from Indiana Jones Masterpieces. While I really liked the larger work, the crease in the center of the card is very distracting. Folded artwork is just a bad idea.
With Topps' new Widevision sketch cards, I'm in love. The size is perfect. It's more space for art in general and, specifically, it gives artists a ton of room for scenes and/or full body drawings. The only thing I miss is having the nice clear plastic magnetic holders that I use on my standard size cards. I really despise top-loaders for art. They aren't completely clear and really distort the color of the cards. If you're reading this Ultra-Pro, please make Widevision magnetic holders!

Do you enjoy the other cards, autographs, costume cards, etc., in a set as well as the sketch cards?
I collect a few autographs and always like having a complete set (including subsets) of the sets I collect sketch cards from. In the end though, if I can sell it to afford a sketch card, I'll probably not hang onto it.

Have you had any bad experiences with sketch card artists?
Honestly, sometimes commissions have not turned out as I envisioned them. This is unfortunately the way art works. Different people envision different things. So, while it's not any artist's fault if this happens, it is sometimes an unpleasant part of collecting art.

Bad experiences with card companies?
Not personally.

Is your collection online where people can see it?
My collection is all posted on This is a site that I've developed for all collectors (and artists) to post their sketch card art on. You can find my collection here:

Thank you so much for your time, Kris!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Interview with Dennis Budd

How did you get involved in sketch cards?
I was in the middle of a job when the boss-man mentioned he knew someone at Topps and they were looking for artists to work on these things called ‘sketch cards.’ Mind you I had not collected trading cards for many years and had no idea what the little suckers were. ‘So you draw on blank stock and they’re inserted into packs,’ I asked. ‘That’s kinda neat.’ It sounded like an interesting side job so I whipped up a page of sketches and sent them off to the editor, and a short time later I was working on Lord of the Rings: Evolution.

Do you have an educational background in art or are you self taught?
When I was a kid I took classes with a pair of local artists for a number of years, which I think gave me a good foundation for a lot of self-discovery and experimentation later on. After high school I attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc., and learned from the many great, creative people there, teachers and students alike.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
The first twenty-five or so cards I drew for LOTRE were absolutely horrible (sorry collectors), if memory serves, most of them were Gollums and Faramirs, which didn’t really look like either character/actor, and a high level of frustration beset me in that early hour, but I managed to plow my way through so that a couple of days later,by the final pen stroke of the two hundredth card, it sorta looked like I knew what I was doing. Now having done hundreds of cards I’m much more at ease with the size.

How do you feel about the entire process?
It is what it is. Time and money are our masters, and there’s never enough of either! :D

Do you prefer to work with a specific media?
I have no real preference concerning media. Time can be a major contributing factor in whether or not I decide to paint since a painted card can take hours to complete, as opposed to maybe twenty minutes if I go the pencil/ink/marker route. It’s much easier to identify the media I don’t like, which is usually anything that is messy, like charcoal or pastels.

Some of your cards are very painterly. Artistically, how do you approach those cards?
There are some fundamental changes that occur when I switch from my cartoony comic book style to realistic. When I draw the comic book stuff it’s pretty much out of my head, and is dependent on how I’m regurgitating everything I’ve seen and learned and how I understand things. When painting realistically, generally you have a reference photo or different images that you’re transposing to another surface, and there are proportion and color considerations that need to be observed in the interpretation for it to look real.

Do you have a hard time switching from a cartoony style to a more realistic one?
Not anymore, now that I’ve been doing it for awhile. There’s a brief moment when the gears in my head grind to a halt, then start up again.

Has your career as an artist benefited from doing sketch card work?
It has, and it’s also made me a better artist. Doing hundreds of cards in a short time frame quickly teaches you how to draw fast, and the simple the act of drawing so much makes you better at it, which is a great advantage when drawing is your profession.

How do you feel about companies no longer allowing aftermarket sketch cards?
It’s a bummer. Aftermarkets were a nice way to interact with collectors, improve upon the original sketch and pick up some extra bucks. It was sad to see them go but I guess nothing lasts forever.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
I did when I was active on some message boards. I had to take a break from them for a couple reasons: first, I got busier with work, and second, there were periods where it just seemed everyone was cantankerous or peeved at something, stuff like ‘I’ve been ripped off, I bought a case of cards and didn’t get one color card or an artist I like.’ Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority, if not all, of people I’ve come into contact with are very nice individuals, but it’s that small vocal group that sees no problem in voicing their disgust for just about everything that can wear you down, and things got increasingly negative, so I just needed to get away for awhile. I recently started lurking again, so I could be coming back to a message board near you (if you’ll have me?).

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date? What made it difficult?
On Indiana Jones Masterpieces, I tried to do some monochromatic painted cards, but there was some new coating on the cards that wouldn’t allow the paint to settle right, and there are horizontal streaks running across them all, so I gave up after about twenty or so. There were a couple of repeat-a-sketch projects, too, that were draining creatively, and by the end of drawing the same images again and again, I wanted to gouge my eyes and saw off my hand.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I don’t think so. I tend not to fall in love with anything I do. Usually I end up dissatisfied with my work anyway before the week is out.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. What do you do with yours?
Usually sell them. I still have a bunch of returns from the past few sets, but they’ll eventually find their way to market.

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
I do, but it depends on what the set is and what strings are attached to the project. Some companies have what is akin to style guidelines, and they’ll require different things like every card being in full color, or a certain percentage of a character’s body needs to be represented, or only the approved samples are to be drawn over and over and over again, which really takes the fun out of working on them and turns it into just another job. Since cards are more or less a side gig I prefer projects with fewer hoops to jump through.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
Everyone knows the old staples, like draw a lot, draw from life, blah, blah, blah. Let me touch on what will keep you in the business once your foot is in the door: follow directions, meet your deadline, and don’t take on more work than you can handle that would put you in danger of not making that deadline. Start off with a hundred cards and see how it goes, after all, it’s much better to fulfill an obligation of a hundred than diving into a thousand and struggling to finish half the sum with a few days before they need to be mailed in. And it doesn’t hurt to know people.

Can you tell us what future sketch card sets you'll be working on?
I’m now awaiting the blanks for Star Wars Galaxy 5.

What are you currently working on?
I’ve been working on some creator-owned projects. The first is a follow-up to the Model Operandi comic that I work on with my buddy of Marvel lettering and writing fame- Joe Caramagna. The second is a book that is in the R and D phase, but I’m not quite ready to divulge what it is just yet. Other than that I work on commissions and anything else that pops up.

Where can people see more of your work?

Thank you, Dennis!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chicago Entertainment Collectors Expo update

Chicago Entertainment Collectors Expo
December 13th, 2009
Don't miss this very special one day event!
Meet trading card artists Mark McHaley and Bob Stevlic!
Pick up your stocking stuffers!
Wish someone Happy Holidays with unique collectibles and gifts!

UPDATE: Ari Lehman has canceled due to professional commitments and will return in 2010.

Take a non sport break from the holidays at the Holiday Inn in Carol Stream, IL.
Open to the public 9am -3pm.
Directions to the Holiday Inn: Take I-355 Expressway to North Ave. (RT 64), exit.Go West for 4 miles, to Gary Ave, turn leftand then turn right into the parking lot. Hotel is across the lot from Brunswick Bowl. Hotel Phone is 630-665-3000.

Come to the Holiday Expo, Dec 13th and take advantage of the Very Special Advance Ticket price for the 10th Anniversary Chicago Expo- Sept 9-12, 2010! See Paul or Terry for details.
-Paul Maiellaro

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mark Irwin, Art Director of Upper Deck

Can you give us some background on the company Upper Deck?
Upper Deck is the leading sports and entertainment trading card and collectibles company. For more information on Upper Deck and its products please visit

What type of sketch card sets/genre does Upper Deck like to do?
Typically Marvel-related, as that’s what the fans seem to love.

What do you look for in your sketch card artists?
I try to hire a good combination of actual comic pros and known sketch card artists, mixed in with some new folks from different walks of art.

If an artist wanted to contact you or your company about working on future sketch card sets, how would you recommend they go about it?
They’d need to send samples to me; is the best way to get ahold of me.

How would you recommend they DON’T go about it?
Do NOT call me; I’m an email guy anyway. :)

You did some artwork on the Marvel Masterpieces sketch card sets, correct? Do you normally work on sketch card sets as well?
I’ve worked on all 3 Marvel Masterpiece sets from Upper Deck, as well as some old sketch card sets from Fleer many years ago. Since I still work in comics as an inker, it’s always good to try my hand at these sets and keep a foot in that side of things.

Can you tell us about the current sketch card sets Upper Deck is working on?
We’re currently working a sketch card set for the Iron Man 2 Movie release.*

Any information on future sets?
None that I can divulge at this time!

Does Upper Deck hear from card collectors from time to time?
All the time; in fact, I still get cards that I did years ago sent to me for signing all the time. It’s great to see and hear the fans passion for the hobby.

Where can people find additional information on Upper Deck?

Thank you so much for your time, Mark!

*The Iron Man 2 sketch card set is currently full and Upper Deck is not looking for more artists.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview with collector and dealer Rachel Ahrendes

How did you first get into sketch card collecting?
I got into sketch card collecting in 1998 with Marvel Creators Collection. I had collected cards before and my local comic shop got these cards in. I loved original art and this seemed like the perfect mix of both. I opened packs until I pulled a Rogue sketch card. After that, there was no stopping me. I still have that card.

What exactly do you do as a dealer? Do you focus on all trading cards, sketch card sets only, etc?
I open many cases of cards and then sell the sketch cards and sets. I tend to focus on sets with sketch cards but I will also buy other trading cards. Those are mainly from movies that are popular.

Is there a specific genre/property/character you collect and why?
I mainly collect Marvel but I have collected cards from most of the major comic companies. I have also had LOTR, Harry Potter, Twilight, and Star Wars cards in my collection. Sketch cards are what I love though.

Do you prefer pencil cards over color (or color over pencil)?
Actually, I like both. I just depends on how they are drawn.

What do you look for in a card that you want to own?
It may sound kind of funny, but personality. I love to see a card that is different from every other card out there and expresses some kind of emotion.

If there is a specific artist - or artists - you like to collect and what is it about their cards you prefer?
I mainly collect Nar and Renae DeLiz. Tony Perna and Allison Sohn are also some of my favorite artists. Nar's art just blows me away every time I see it. It's amazing the way he can put so much detail, passion and beauty into each of his cards. I love knowing that each of his cards is orginial and that I'm never going to see other card like it. Renae has been a favorite since Complete Avengers. There is just something about her cards that I really like. Tony's and Allison's cards are beautiful.

Have you ever contacted a card company about a card set? If so, why?
Yes, mainly about dud boxes. Most have been fairly good about sending replacements.

How large would you say your collection is?
Between 150-200 cards.

How do your family (and/or friends) feel about your collecting?
They are positive about it. A lot of my friends also collect cards so they understand.

Do you ever sell off portions of your collection? If so, why?
Sometimes. I mainly sell the non sketch cards but I have had to sell some of the sketch cards.

How do you feel about more sketch card sets coming out on a regular basis?
In some ways I really like it but I think there are too many coming out. I think it is oversaturating the market. One or 2 comic based sets a year is good but 4 comic based from the same company is just too much.

Would you say that affects collectability?
Definitely. The more sets that come out, the less people have to spend and what was rare in a previous set might be much more common in another. For example, when I collected MCC98 (Silver Age also came out that year), it was one of the first sketch sets. For years after those sets came out, the prices just kept going up. There were only a couple other sketch sets that came out in the years between those sets and Complete Avengers. None of those sets really hit it big. MCC98 and Silver Age were much like the more recent MM1 in that artists could do pencils, inks or colors. As soon as CA came out, the prices started dropping. Those cards are now worth a fraction of what they were once worth. The same thing has happened with CA. At the same time, some cards have only gone up in value due to popularity of artist and depending on how many sets they have worked on. What collectors want to see on sketch cards is much different now than it was years ago.

Do you purchase several boxes or cases of cards at a time?
I purchase several cases. Normally somewhere between 10 and 30.

How do you feel about come collectors that buy several cases at a time?
I have no problem with them, especially since I happen to be one of them. LOL.

Do you take artist popularity into consideration?
Yes, I do. Their popularity can have a lot to do with how much a card might be worth.

What would you say is your favorite card you own and why?
My favorite card is my Blink PSC by Nar. It is just gorgeous. I got to watch him color it as well and I will never forget that. I really like watching artists sketching, inking and coloring. In a way, it's like magic to me. The process is just amazing.

How do you feel about an artist putting out several cards with the same image on them?
I really don't like it. When I get a card, I like it to be the only card out there like it. When I see repeat images, it really loses the specialness.

What is your opinion on pencil sketches in a card set versus fully colored/painted cards?
Some of my favorite cards are pencil sketches but I will always choose a fully colored card if the detail is the same.

On that note, how do you feel about some artists who state that sketch cards are just that, 'sketch' cards?
I think that is up to the artist but if an artist is trying to make a name for themselves, just doing "sketch" cards is not going to cut it. In fact, I really believe it is counter-productive. I am not going to commission an artist unless I really like the cards I have seen on a set. As a dealer, I know what artists really sell, both in sets and as commissions, and those are the artists that really put everything into their cards.

Or that they are not paid enough per card to create many (or any) color cards?
I think artists should be paid a lot more than what they are getting paid now, especially for the fully detailed colored cards.

Are there any sketch card sets you would love to see come out that haven't yet?
Not really, I would love to see another set like MM1 and/ or Women of Marvel.

Do you contact artists for personal commissions, any return cards they may have, etc?
Yes, I do. I love getting commissions from my favorite artists and a have a few AP cards.

How do you feel about artists charging more for return cards?
I think they should get paid more for those cards. That is where they are really making their money.

Some companies put cards out that vary in size (Topps' Clone Wars Widevision, for example). Does that affect whether or not you will collect from that set?
I normally only collect the cards that are the normal size.

Do you enjoy the other cards, autographs, costume cards, etc., in a set as well as the sketch cards?
I do but the sketch cards are the only ones I really keep.

Have you had any bad experiences with sketch card artists?
Sometimes it may take a while to get a commission, but I have always been extremely happy with what I got.

Bad experiences with card companies?
I've had some issues with one company.

Is your collection online where people can see it?
Part of it is. I'm working on getting the rest it up.

Thank you so much, Rachel!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Interview with Dean Yeagle

Can you give us some background on yourself?
I've been an animator most of my life, mostly in NY but also in LA and London occasionally. I have my own animation company, Caged Beagle Productions, Inc., and I've done TV commercials (Cookie-Crisp, for instance), CD ROMS (Cat in the Hat, Berenstain Bears, Rugrats), some consulting (Warner Bros., Blue Sky {ICE AGE}). For the past ten years I've done cartoons for Playboy Magazine, and I've published my own sketchbooks, and had two books published in Paris as well. I've also recently had a one-man show at the Arludik Gallery in Paris.

How about Mandy's origins?
She was first seen in a Playboy cartoon, and went on from there, with a few changes, to the web and then to books.

How did the idea for a Mandy sketch card set come about?
I was contacted by Steven Frank of 5FINITY to do them...until that, I'd been unaware that such a thing as 'sketch cards' existed at all.

Did you do any sketch cards for the set? If so, how many?
Yes, ten.

Did you have an active role in the set itself?
Yes, I did. Steve was very careful to send me examples and designs for the packages, etc.

I understand the set sold out fairly quickly. How does it feel to know your character has a large fan base?
It's very gratifying - I've known she has a wide fanbase, all over the world due to the Internet, but I wasn't sure how well known she was in the sketch card community. Nice to know she's liked there.

How do you feel about the finished product?
Haven't actually seen it yet, but a CD of all the cards is on it's way.

Do you think you would like to do another sketch card set featuring Mandy in the future?
Yes, love to.

What are you working on now?
I have some Playboy cartoons to finish and new ones to sketch out, and I have to get started on a new book for the San Diego comic con in July. I also need to do some large originals of Mandy for another gallery show in Paris (examples attached), as well as commissions for a number of collectors. Last month my wife and I were invited to Brussels and Paris so that I could sign a new sketchbook that's been published there; we also went to the comic fest in St. Malo, in Brittany. The publisher is also doing a sculpture based on the cover girl on my sketchbook. I've attached a turnaround. I also have some projects for charity in the works, and a comic book cover to do.

Thank you so much for your time, Dean!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Upper Deck and Marvel

Interview with Nicole Falk

How did you get involved in sketch cards?
Through my work I have to attend a lot of toy, video game, and/or comic shows. The biggest one being San Diego Comic Con. Every year I would go and work. Finally it dawned on me one year to bring my portfolio to try and get some freelance work! I was interested in sketch card work, cause it seemed like such a fun thing to draw on that size, so I drew up some quick samples. I went to a couple different companies, and got some good responses. But luckily the art director for Topps was there at the show, and he looked through my portfolio as well. He commented that I obviously like Star Wars (since that was mainly what was in it, Star Wars and monsters). Then he said that they didn't have a Star Wars set coming up , but if I was interested there was the new Lord of the Rings Masterpieces ll. I was so psyched that he was giving me a chance. I completed 356 cards for that set.

How do you feel about working on such a small surface?
I love it! Its fun and faster than most pieces I do, although sometimes it can take a long time to do a card cause I try to put in a bunch of tiny details.

What media do you like to work with for your cards?
I use pencil, pen & markers...normal work is either painted with markers or water colors so not really.

How do you feel about the entire process?
Umm sometimes the deadlines seem really tight, and that's frustrating 'cause I definitely want every card to be awesome, so you do have to sacrifice say painting them or something, in order to finish on time. I think working with different companies is great so you can get a range of opinions on your work and have new interactions with different art directors. It will also help you appreciate some companies you work with, more than you had previously.

How do you approach your cards? Is there a lot of ‘prep’ time for you?
Not really, I like to print out a bunch of reference, or scenes ahead of time so I have them when I sit down to draw, that's pretty much it! I start drawing - and I try to get all the cards done in pencil first, so that if for some reason something happens and I run out of time, I know at least there is a decent drawing on the card. Then I pen them all, and last go through and try to paint/marker them.

Do you have a lot of contact with collectors regarding your cards?
I think I do! Haha! I have people who contact me while I'm still working on the set, and then a lot once I post that I'm reserving or selling my returned cards.

How do you feel about some collectors wanting more detailed cards versus what sketch card artists are paid to work on the cards?
I definitely don't get involved in that debate. I look at any illustrated work I do as a piece of my artwork and my name. I try my best and get done as much as I would like to see get done on each card. If I had the time I would love every card to be fully colored, no matter what I'm being paid or who is seeing it. Its my work.

Have you had any bad experiences with collectors?
Thankfully, no (not that I can recall). So I know I'm pretty lucky so far.

Bad experiences with companies?
Again, none that I have actually worked with, I'm happy to say.

Has your career as an artist benefitted from doing sketch card work?
SO MUCH. It really has brought everything to life. I illustrated here and there, and got a couple neat gigs like a small press children's book and online magazines and such. But once I started illustrating sketch cards, all these neat opportunities started coming out! I got hooked up with which has been amazing, getting to work on stuff for the kids section as well as the Mighty Muggs project has been the most rewarding stuff I have done yet. And there are a bunch of new, exciting venues that are now open doors for me. I am quite thankful I got that first gig.

What was the most difficult sketch card set you have worked on to date?
Indiana Jones, unfortunately. It's some of my favorite movies, but it was a situation where I ran out of time, due to personal reasons. I was very upset about that set. There were a lot of cards I did like on it but as a whole I am not that thrilled with it.

Are there any cards that you are particularly proud of?
I definitely have a couple maybe 1 or 2 from each set that I do that I'm like - AWESOME! haha..but one that comes to mind is from the Star Wars Galaxy Set, it was a card that had 2 Chewbaccas on it. One was the Ralph McQuarrie Chewie looking out all creepy and shocked and then the regular Chewie that we all know and love, looking at him like WHAT!? WHO IS THIS!? It cracked me up when I did it, and when a lot of fans kept responding to it, it justified its fun silliness for me, which is exactly the response I want and love.

Some companies provide return cards for working on sketch card sets. Do you keep any of the cards returned to you? What are you planning to do with them?
No I usually sell them. The only ones I have are 1 or 2 from the very first set I did. Oh and a few that I just haven't sold yet! I want to frame the ones from the first set, it was such a proud moment for me!!

Do you see yourself continuing with sketch card sets?
Yes but honestly I do try to do fewer cards every time, because they are quite time consuming, and as much as I do love them, I just don't have the time right now.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people wanting to break into the sketch card ‘biz’?
I have people asking me that all the time.

A general point is if you want it - go out and get it!! It sure as heck won't come to you. If you want to illustrate sketch cards - then just illustrate them, then go to shows and meet with the art directors of trading card companies.

I cannot stress just literally going up to companies and having the art directors check out your stuff..BUT make sure you have samples in there of what they are looking for specifically of properties they have, and have a range, finished sketch cards that are just penciled, penned, and/or completely colored cards.

Also drawing up some cards to donate to charities is always a great way to work on sketch cards, and get your name out I highly recommend donating your time and talents to wonderful organizations like like Sketch Cards for the Cure and others.

Where can people see more of your work?
My Facebook Fan Page, where I update what I'm working on and have photos of new work and things:

My art blog, updated much more than my website:

My website, needs to be updated better!:

My twitter:

Thank you for your time, Nicole!